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Our brain has a mind of its own

Memory 2

Alzheimer's“There are times when the brain contains hidden wisdom that if monitored could help us in various ways, whether in marketing, in lie detection, or even in predicting daily stock market fluctuations. People might not ‘know’ these things, but it’s possible there is diagnostic information waiting to be uncovered in the folds of the brain, the most sophisticated computer in the known universe.”

This statement by Matthew Lieberman, in his 2013 book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, was made in connection with the author’s scientific study of the effectiveness of advertising campaigns designed to help smokers quit. Three campaigns, referred to as A, B and C, were tested on smokers wanting to quit by asking them which campaign ad they though would be most effective. Each ad ended with “Call 1-800-QUITNOW, the National Cancer Institute’s anti-smoking hotline.

The smokers said that the Campaign B ad would do the best, A ad would be second, and C ad would do the worst. But activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain (determined with functional MRIs) indicated they really thought that the C ad would be the most effective.

In actual fact, although all ads were successful, Campaign C ad did have the best response, increasing call volume more than thirty times over.

Sometimes it seems as though our brain is smarter than we are. It can sense danger before we are consciously aware of it, feel the pain when someone else gets hurt, assess the character of someone we barely know, anticipate what someone is thinking before they even speak, and in some cases even heal “incurable” diseases.

Never has there been more research conducted on the brain to discover what make it tick. Never has there been so much knowledge about the brain – everything from where memories are stored to its neuroplasticity and ability to change itself throughout our lifetime. And the biggest discovery in the last ten years is that there is so much more to discover.

One thing we do know –that dwarfs the importance of everything else we have learned – is that we can do much to keep our brain healthy so that it can continue to work its miracles. This includes physical and mental exercise, proper diet and the avoidance of excessive stress and harmful substances.

We should never take this “most sophisticated computer in the known universe” for granted.

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